Letter: Solution for Safer Schools

Bedford Central parent, Melinda Avellino, advocates emergency preparedness training for teachers to help make schools safer.

There has been a bit of discussion going back and forth regarding having an armed police officer at the Pound Ridge Elementary School (PRES) in light of the tragedy of the Sandy Hook  Elementary School shooting.  I am a parent of 2 children in the Bedford Central School District,  who have gone to the  Pound Ridge Elementary School and are now at Fox Lane High School.  

During their time at PRES, I was an active PTA mom and a Coordinator for our local Pound Ridge OEM, which I am still a current member.  I recognized at that time the importance of the connection between the school’s teachers and administrative staff and our local OEM providing training and preparedness for the school. I also organized a Community Emergency Response Team  (CERT) training in our town, which is a course certification created by the FEMA,  a popular response to 911.  CERT prepares residents for an emergency through the possible scenarios, knowing how to protect themselves from harm, and stay out of harm’s way.

Our local PR OEM conducts annual drills at PRES every June regarding multiple emergency scenarios, to test out the school’s preparedness. This invaluable exercise provides insight and recommendations during the de-briefing. It gives the most realistic hands on experience to those in charge of our children.

In addition, a police officer only protects students on the actual school premises, it does not address students going on class trips off the premises. The training can prepare teachers for such emergencies on and off school premises.

An effective solution for the future is to provide an annual, mandatory training, every August for all incoming teachers and staff, certifying them in an emergency preparedness course specifically geared toward school safety, then conduct the local drill in September. This type of training can provide a much higher survival rate. In any “emergency”,  no one knows how they will react under such circumstances, however, the more prepared and knowledgeable you are, the more chances you have at a better outcome. The fact that our children are there can not be changed, all we can do is offer them the most prepared teachers and staff in the case of such a hainous event.

FEMA should respond to the tragedies in our schools as they did with the tragedy of 911, by this time, creating a CERT-like program for our educators and their institutions, and teaching institutions.

Parents can empower themselves by letting FEMA know the importance of starting such a program to protect our children as an effective approach for the long term success of combatting these types of unforseen assaults on our schools.  If not FEMA, than we should also consider hiring our own security experts to create a program we can implement in our own local school system.

Until we have this kind of proactive training and preparedness in place, we are all vulnerable to becoming victims of such circumstances.



Melinda Avellino
Pound Ridge resident


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